Album Review: M.I. Abaga ‘The Guy’

Basic punchlines, puns, weak rhyme schemes, singing more than rapping, yet another highly anticipated rap project morphs into an Afrofusion fiesta on autopilot.

M.I Abaga Poster

Artist: M.I Abaga (The Guy)

Title: The Guy

Genre: Hip Hop/Rap

Date of Release: 18 August 2022

Producers: Chopstix, Masterkraft, Beats By Jay, Jesse Jagz, G-Plus Chang and more…

Album Art:

M.I The Guy Album Art

Length: 12 Songs; 40 minutes

Guest Appearances: 13; Nas, Olamide, BNXN fka Buju, Duncan Mighty, Lord Vino, Jesse Jagz, Ice Prince and more..

Label: Chocolate City

Away from most of the hustling and bustling of Lagos, Africa’s b

M.I Abaga is undoubtedly Nigeria’s most decorated mainstream Hip Hop/Rap artist. Prior to his latest piece of work-The Guy– M.I had released 4 solo studio albums, two monstrous mixtape albums, several EP’s and multiple collaborative studio albums. As far as Hip Hop goes in terms of accolades and acclaim in Africa, M.I is sits atop the pyramid.

The Guy arrives hot on the heels of numerous debates about how the Hip Hop genre in Nigeria is being shackled by the demands of the market. No longer than 2 months ago, M.I was involved in a heated Twitter brawl with music journalist Joey Akan.

Akan had accused M.I and his Hip Hop cohorts of stiffness, lack of desire to adapt to demands of the average music listener. In the rapper’s defence, Akan made some OP statements that will baffle even the slightest Hip Hop buff about his music-journalism credentials. But that’s not why I’m here.

Music is essentially an aesthetic way to communicate. It could also be soul food, depending on how we connect with our faves. As much as it is entertaining, it’s a means for the artist to detail some of the happenings in their lives and, that’s why I’ve painstakingly summarised M.I’s recent ‘up-tos’, in the public eye in the buildup to The Guy- little crumbs I think would have played a part in the project’s deliverables.

12-songs, 40 minutes, Chopstix, Beats By Jay, Olamide, Nas, Phyno, BNXN fka Buju, Lord Vino, Duncan Mighty, some of the components you can use to describe the album. However, the long list of A-list guest appearances would be the most appealing to people.  It is a testament to M.I’s status as rich, connected, and influential. Collaborations require heavy financial commitments but, when you’ve headed Chocolate City -pretty much our own Def Jam- in two eras, you become more equal to the task than most.

The Guy opens with an eponymous record, the major lead single of the album. On the song, M.I packs basic punchlines that don’t really tell the full story of his gifted-level creativity. He talks about being cool with Vector again but mainly raved about getting the ‘paper’. I thought, “what a way to open what is supposed to be an iconic comeback album,” when the song released a couple of weeks ago.

But if I thought The Guy was bad, the second song entitled The Hate had me screaming “What is this?” halfway through it. Towards the end of the song, M.I modified the Burna Boy ‘catch-up’ pun and rhymed potatoes with tomatoes. At this point, my report card began taking shape.

M.I Abaga The Guy Track listing

When I saw the track listing for The Guy, Bigger was already a potential favourite. M.I, Nas, Olamide on one song, that might only ever happen this once. The song improved the mood, mostly Olamide and Nas’ contributions. However, at this point, I started wondering if this project was well pondered by M.I or it was just a reactionary measure to tell us he could still do it.

Whatever optimism I was building from Bigger quickly evaporated when Lord Vino entered Soft Life Tony with “I grind hard for my cheese/ I don’t care if you look at me funny.”  Not to forget, this song had lines like “you go balance take picture like tripod” and other weak puns that you certainly don’t expect to see on an M.I project.

On The Inside, M.I teams up with Phyno and The Cavemen over a Hi-life inspired instrumental by Masterkraft who has become a specialist in the art. However, the record is more deep-rooted in Hi-life than in Hip Hop despite the presence of two Hip Hop heavyweights in M.I and Phyno on it.

The curtain closer, More Life – a record that saw M.I link up with his Chocolate City bros Jesse Jagz and Ice Prince is one of the better songs on the album as far as Hip Hop is concerned, if not the best. However, despite being a very good record in the context of Rap and a trigger for palatable nostalgia (for those who listened during the early Chocolate City days), couldn’t salvage The Guy.

In summary, M.I Abaga’s The Guy encourages the perception that rap does not pay in Nigeria and, that rappers need to lean more towards singing to be successful. And fans who understand will be left mulling over why M.I had that brawl with Mr Akan.

Real Hip Hop fans will listen to The Guy and know almost immediately that the time M.I, who is, of course highly revered in the industry, tried to change the norm is now in the past. As affirmed by most of the reinforcements in The Guy, M.I is more inclined now to making sure he sells records rather than upsetting the odds.

Enjoyable album to the average listener, of course. But to the rap buff who was hoping The Guy would be the return of their general, the long wait continues. Especially because we believe M.I. Abaga, Mr Incredible still has it in him.

Have you listened to The Guy? What are your thoughts?

Rating: 2/5

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

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